Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a comprehensive therapeutic modality that is used to address adverse life experiences that influence difficulties in daily living. When maladaptive conclusions from past negative circumstances are inadequately processed, they may begin informing the present to the point of seeing current life through the lens of a previously experienced trauma or negative experience. We often get “stuck” in these negative memories as a result of inadequately coping with and processing them. Subsequently, we may find ourselves in frequent dysfunctional states as a result of adverse life experience that has not resolved. This could look like emotional reactivity, hyper-
vigilance, unstable relationships, phobias, anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, self-esteem issues, grief and loss that does not resolve, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, and other symptoms that impair one’s ability to function in a healthy, fulfilling way.
One aspect of EMDR that can help with successfully reprocessing disturbing memories is bilateral stimulation or BLS (eye movements, tapping, or auditory tones); the physiological storage of memory and how these memories are informing current experience is accessed and reprocessed through BLS.
How does this work? Target memories are identified, reprocessed, integrated into, and linked with adaptive memory networks and new learning becomes possible. Adaptive change is understood as a byproduct of this reprocessing due to the alteration of memory storage and the links created to adaptive memory networks (Shapiro, 2001).
Goals of EMDR include:
- 1) Identify and reprocess maladaptive memories that fuel current problems
- 2) Strengthen ability to connect to adaptive memory networks (these include positive life
- experiences, memories that are processed and integrated in a healthy way, negative
- experiences that are resolved)
- 3) Reduce and eliminate vulnerability to challenging situations that are triggered by dysfunctional
- memory networks (i.e.: Unresolved trauma or bad memories)
- 4) Develop the necessary skills, behaviors and beliefs about self and other that will help the client to optimize capacity for responding authentically and effectively to challenging dynamics
- 5) Maintain stability and safety while achieving optimal outcomes
- 6) Incorporate additional interventions and modalities that may be needed to assist with fully assimilated adaptations as a result of EMDR (i.e.: coping strategies, skills development, couples or family therapy)
If you feel that you may benefit from EMDR or would like to explore this further as a treatment option, please reach out to Alliance Counseling Utah at (801) 792-1150, or reach out to Jessica directly at
Shapiro, F. (2001). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing-Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures. New York: The Guilford Press.